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Angler Demographics: An Age-Period-Cohort Analysis
Winkler, R. L. and E. M. Burkett
1 Department of Social Sciences, Michigan Technological University, 1400 Townsend Dr., Houghton, MI 49931
Anglers play a critical role affecting Great Lakes region fisheries, their related ecosystems, and fisheries management. However, the number of anglers has generally been declining in recent years. If these patterns continue, declining numbers of anglers and changes to the age and sex structure of angler populations could have dramatic implications for agency funding, habitat programs, and fisheries policy and management strategies. This project aimed to understand patterns of angler demographic change (by sex, age, time period, and birth cohort) across the Upper Great Lakes states (including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin). We investigated both total anglers resident in these states and the smaller subset of anglers who fish the Great Lakes for salmon/trout. The project analyzed the role of cohort effects (or generational differences) in explaining angler participation and the implications of such cohort effects for projecting future angler populations and for fisheries management. We found that both cohort and age effects play a significant role in explaining angler participation. Among males, older generations (born prior to 1965 and especially the Baby Boom generation) are more likely to fish than younger generations, with those born since 1980 showing reduced participation rates. Females, however, show almost opposite patterns, with more recent generations typically showing higher fishing participation. In states that offer spousal fishing licenses (Wisconsin and Minnesota), females born in the late 1950s and 1960s also show high participation rates, in correspondence with a male spouse. Population projections based on these results, generally show that if recent patterns of angler participation by age and birth cohort continue into the future that the number of male anglers will continue to decline (the extent to which varies by state and lake), while the number of female anglers will generally increase (though not enough to make up for the decline in male anglers). This combination should result in a growing proportion of the total anglers becoming female over the next fifteen to twenty years. These findings are generally consistent for lake-based analysis of cohort effects on those fishing Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron for salmon/trout, with some more nuanced lake to lake differences. Lake-level population projections suggest that the number of salmon/trout anglers in Lake Superior is likely to remain fairly stable over the next fifteen years, while the number of salmon/trout anglers should be expected to decline in Lake Huron and especially in Lake Michigan. Altogether, the results imply that analysts and managers tracking angler participation should consider both age and birth cohort in explaining changing numbers and rates of license sales over time. Recruitment, retention, and reactivation programs should plan for and facilitate fishing participation among young and family-age women and their families. Our final recommendation is that managers consider the possibility that the aging Baby Boom population, who has for the last several decades been the primary angling constituency, will be aging out of the fishing population over the next ten to twenty years and that newer generations may have different practices and interests.